SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he will halt all new fracking permits in California starting in 2024, using his executive authority to take on the state’s powerful oil and gas industry in a year he will likely face voters in a recall election.
Fracking — short for hydraulic fracturing, the process of extracting oil and gas embedded in rock deep underground — accounts for a small portion of the state’s oil and gas production each year. But environmental advocates have long sought its banishment because of its harmful effects on the environment and public health.
If successful, California would become the largest oil-producing state to ban fracking. But Newsom has his eyes set on a bigger goal of ending all oil production in the state by 2045. Friday, he ordered state regulators to come up with a plan on how to do that.
Last year, Newsom ordered state regulators to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars in California starting in 2035 — a move that preceded a similar commitment by General Motors.
"As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil," Newsom said in a news release Friday.
Newsom halted fracking permits in 2019 so an independent panel of scientists could review the state’s permitting process. He lifted that ban in April 2020. The state issued 83 fracking permits last year, down from an average of about 220 per year since 2016.
Still, environmental groups blasted Newsom for allowing fracking to continue at all. Newsom responded by asking the Legislature to ban it. A pair of state senators tried it, but their bill died in a legislative committee last week.
Newsom said Friday he will try to do it through the state’s regulatory process, which could take several years.
At one time, California was one of the largest oil-producing states in the nation, with a robust industry centered in the Central Valley just north of Los Angeles.
But in 2020, the state’s oil production fell to its lowest level in state history, down 68% from its peak in 1985.